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9 Things to Know About Exercise-induced Neuroplasticity in Human Parkinson’s

“A willing mind makes a hard journey easy.” Philip Massinger

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being.” Plato

Introduction: Much of my life has been spent exercising. Most of this exercise has been done with sheer delight.  Since receiving my Parkinson’s diagnosis, my opinion of exercise has changed.  With Parkinson’s, I’m now exercising as if my life depends on it.  Why?  Animal models (mouse and rat) of Parkinson’s have convincing shown the effect of exercise-induced neuroplasticity.  These animal studies demonstrated neuroprotection and even neurorestoration of Parkinson’s.  But we’re neither mice/rats nor are we an animal model of Parkinson’s disease; thus, this post is an update on exercise-induced neuroplasticity in human Parkinson’s.

“If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end.” Julius Erving

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9 Things to Know About Exercise-induced Neuroplasticity in Human Parkinson’s: Neuroplasticity,  neuroprotection and neurorestoration are catchy words that populate a lot of publications, blogs from many of us with Parkinson’s and from professionals who study/work in the field of Parkinson’s.  It is important for you to develop your own opinion about exercise-induced neuroplasticity. My goal in this post is to provide the basic elements, concepts and key reference material to help you with this opinion. Here is a 1-page summary of “9 Things to Know About Exercise-induced Neuroplasticity in Human Parkinson’s” (click here to download page).

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(1) Parkinson’s Disease (PD): Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder. Parkinson’s usually presents as a movement disorder, which is a slow progressive loss of motor coordination, gait disturbance, slowness of movement, rigidity, and tremor.  Parkinson’s can also include cognitive/psychological impairments. ~170 people/day are diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the USA; the average age of onset is ~60 years-old.

(2) Safety First: The benefit of an exercise routine/program will only work if you have (i) talked about it with your Neurologist and have his/her consent; (ii) you have received advice from a physical therapist/certified personal trainer about which exercises are ‘best’ for you; and (iii) you recognize that PD usually comes with gait and balance issues, and you are ready to begin. Safety first, always stay safe!

(3) Exercise: Exercise is activity requiring physical effort, carried out especially to sustain or improve health and fitness. Exercise is viewed by movement disorders clinicians, physical therapists, and certified personal trainers as a key medicinal ingredient in both treating and enabling patients at all stages of Parkinson’s.

(4) Brain Health: With or without Parkinson’s disease, taking care of your brain is all-important to your overall well-being, life-attitude, and health. For a balanced-healthy brain, strive for: proper nutrition and be cognitively fit; exercise; reduce stress; work and be mentally alert; practice mindfulness/meditation; sleep; and stay positive.

(5) Neuroplasticity: Neuroplasticity describes how neurons in the brain compensate for injury/disease and adjust their actions in response to environmental changes. “Forced-use exercise” of the more affected limb/side can be effective in driving neural network adaptation.  Ultimately, this can lead to improved function of the limb/side.

(6) Synapses are junctions between two nerve cells whereby neurotransmitters diffuse across small gaps to transmit and receive signals.

(7) Circuitry: A key result of neuroplasticity is the re-routing of neuronal pathways of the brain along which electrical and chemical signals travel in the central nervous system (CNS).

(8) Parkinson’s-specific Exercise Programs:
PWR!Moves (click here to learn more)
Rock Steady Boxing (click here to learn more)
LSVT BIG (click here to learn more)
Dance for PD (click here to learn more)
LIM Yoga (click here to learn more)
Tai Chi for PD (click here to learn more)

What types of exercise are best for people with Parkinson’s disease? Here is a nice overview of the benefits of exercise for those of us with Parkinson’s  (click here). Regarding the PD-specific exercise programs,  I am most familiar with PWR!Moves, Rock Steady Boxing and LSVT BIG (I’m certified to teach PWR!Moves, I’m a graduate of LSVT BIG, and I’ve participated in Rock Steady Boxing). A goal for you is to re-read ‘Safety First’ above and begin to decide which type of exercise you’d benefit from and would enjoy the most.

(9) Brain/Behavior Changes: The collective results found increase in corticomotor excitability, increase in brain grey matter volume, increase in serum BDNF levels, and decrease in serum tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα) levels. These results imply that neuroplasticity from exercise may potentially either slow or halt progression of Parkinson’s.

What the terms mean: Corticomotor describes motor functions controlled by the cerebral cortex (people with Parkinson’s show reduced corticomotor excitability). Brain grey matter is a major component of the central nervous system consisting of neuronal cells, myelinated and unmyelinated axons, microglial cells, synapses, and capillaries. BDNF is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a protein involved in brain plasticity and it is important for survival of dopaminergic neurons. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα) is an inflammatory cytokine (protein) that is involved in systemic inflammation.  Some studies of exercise-induced neuroplasticity in human Parkinson’s found the above-mentioned changes, which would imply a positive impact of exercise to promote neuroplastic changes.

What can you do with all of the cited articles listed at the end? Compiled below are some comprehensive and outstanding reviews about exercise-induced neuroplasticity in Parkinson’s.  Looking through these papers, you’ll see years of work, but this work has all of the details to everything I’ve described.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

What I believe about neuroplasticity and exercise in Parkinson’s: [Please remember I am not a physician; definitely talk with your neurologist before beginning any exercise program.]  I think about exercising each day; I try to do it on a daily basis.  As a scientist, I’m impressed by the rodent Parkinson’s data and how exercise promotes neuroplasticity. The human studies are also believable; sustained aerobic exercise induces neuroplasticity to improve overall brain health. “Forced-use exercise” is an important concept; I try to work my right-side (arm and leg), which are slightly weaker and stiffer from Parkinson’s. Initially, I used my left arm more, now I ‘force’ myself on both sides with the hope my neural network is stabilized or even improving. If you enjoy exercising as I do, I view it as both an event and a reward; ultimately, I believe it can work and improve my response to Parkinson’s. If you don’t enjoy exercising, this may be more of a task and duty; however, the benefits over time can be better health. Exercise is good for you (heart and brain).  Begin slow, make progress, and see if you are living better with your disorder.  Remain hopeful and be both persistent and positive; try to enjoy your exercise.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott

Past blog posts: Both exercise itself and the benefit of exercise-induced neuroplasticity have been common themes for this blog, including (click on title to view blog posting):
Believe in Life in the Presence of Parkinson’s;
Déjà Vu and Neuroplasticity in Parkinson’s;
Golf And Parkinson’s: A Game For Life;
The Evolving Portrait of Parkinson’s;
Believe In Big Movements Of LSVT BIG Physical Therapy For Parkinson’s;
Meditation, Yoga, and Exercise in Parkinson’s;
Exercise and Parkinson’s.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” John Wooden

References on neuroplasticity and exercise in Parkinson’s:
Farley, B. G. and G. F. Koshland (2005). “Training BIG to move faster: the application of the speed-amplitude relation as a rehabilitation strategy for people with Parkinson’s disease.” Exp Brain Res 167(3): 462-467 (click here to view paper).

Fisher, B. E., et al. (2008). “The effect of exercise training in improving motor performance and corticomotor excitability in people with early Parkinson’s disease.” Arch Phys Med Rehabil 89(7): 1221-1229 (click here to view paper).

Hirsch, M. A. and B. G. Farley (2009). “Exercise and neuroplasticity in persons living with Parkinson’s disease.” Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 45(2): 215-229 (click here to view paper).

Petzinger, G. M., et al. (2010). “Enhancing neuroplasticity in the basal ganglia: the role of exercise in Parkinson’s disease.” Mov Disord 25 Suppl 1: S141-145 (click here to view paper).

Bassuk, S. S., et al. (2013). “Why Exercise Works Magic.” Scientific American 309(2): 74-79.

Lima, L. O., et al. (2013). “Progressive resistance exercise improves strength and physical performance in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review.” Journal of Physiotherapy 59(1): 7-13 (click here to view paper).

Petzinger, G. M., et al. (2013). “Exercise-enhanced neuroplasticity targeting motor and cognitive circuitry in Parkinson’s disease.” Lancet Neurol 12(7): 716-726 (click here to view paper)..

Ebersbach, G., et al. (2015). “Amplitude-oriented exercise in Parkinson’s disease: a randomized study comparing LSVT-BIG and a short training protocol.” J Neural Transm (Vienna) 122(2): 253-256 (click here to view paper).

Petzinger, G. M., et al. (2015). “The Effects of Exercise on Dopamine Neurotransmission in Parkinson’s Disease: Targeting Neuroplasticity to Modulate Basal Ganglia Circuitry.” Brain Plast 1(1): 29-39 (click here to view paper).

Abbruzzese, G., et al. (2016). “Rehabilitation for Parkinson’s disease: Current outlook and future challenges.” Parkinsonism Relat Disord 22 Suppl 1: S60-64 (click here to view paper).

Hirsch, M. A., et al. (2016). “Exercise-induced neuroplasticity in human Parkinson’s disease: What is the evidence telling us?” Parkinsonism & Related Disorders 22, Supplement 1: S78-S81 (click here to view paper)

Tessitore, A., et al. (2016). “Structural connectivity in Parkinson’s disease.” Parkinsonism Relat Disord 22 Suppl 1: S56-59 (click here to view paper).

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates

“Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness.” M. Scott Peck

Cover photo credit: http://paper4pc.com/free-seascape.html#gal_post_55564_free-seascape-wallpaper-1.jpg

Brain exercising cartoon: http://tactustherapy.com/neuroplasticity-stroke-survivors/

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The Evolving Portrait of Parkinson’s

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedane

 “If we own the story then we can write the ending.” Brené Brown

Précis:  To showcase the amazing art/photography/videography of Anders M. Leines who lives in Norway, which gives me the opportunity to voice an opinion about the emerging picture/image of Parkinson’s today.

World Parkinson Congress (WPC) Promo Video: Please watch this video, it’s powerful; “This is Parkinson’s” a WPC Promo from Anders M. Leines (either view it below or click here).  Anders is a videographer and cameraman who works in Oslo, Norway; he’s been diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s. One of his goals is to change the view about how Parkinson’s is perceived by the world.  One look at his video reinforces this notion.  A very nice article about Mr. Leines was recently posted in “Parkinson’s Life” (click here to read this story).  Anders also shares his story with his own blog “This is Parkinson`s” – The Exhibition.  The pictures, the script, and the music accompanying the WPC 2016 Promo by Mr. Leines says more in 1 min 42 sec about Parkinson’s than someone could likely summarize by writing a blog post, but nonetheless I’m going to try.

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve

The Historical Perception of Parkinson’s: Sir Richard Gowers, in 1886, used this drawing (below left panel) to depict a person with Parkinson’s. When you perform a Google search for a ‘picture of Parkinson’s disease’, these sorts of images are still very prevalent. Yes, the average age of someone with Parkinson’s is 60 years of age and older. And yes, Sir Gowers does accurately show the Cardinal signs of Parkinson’s: tremor, rigidity from muscle stiffness, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), postural instability, and masking (reduced facial expression).  Furthermore, Dr. Charcot’s  drawings, from 1888, also depict a typical Parkinson’s patient compared to an atypical patient with Parkinson’s (bottom right panel).  While these drawings are accurate, these images portray to many who see them that all people-with-Parkinson’s must look and act like this. 

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“In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result.” James Allen

The Emerging Perception of Parkinson’s: The reality today is that available treatment strategy and approach to life for someone with Parkinson’s are very different than what was possible for the people portrayed by Sir Gowers and Dr. Charcot. Today, we have well-trained neurologists that are specialists in movement disorders. We have a growing appreciation and understanding of the pathology and biology of Parkinson’s disease.  We have learned about vital lifestyle changes needed to thrive in the presence of this disorder. We have a growing list of therapies [both traditional and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)] to treat Parkinson’s; we even have deep brain surgery (this surgical technique itself is undergoing new advances and is further evolving in its attempt to control/modify symptoms). We have an increased awareness of the importance of exercise to try to slow progression of this disorder. There is clearly a subset of people with Parkinson’s that present at an earlier age than 60 years old (and this is what Mr. Leines and his exhibition is highlighting).   No doubt, we are living longer and we are likely healthier than someone from the 1880’s; however, that also implies we’re living more years with our Parkinson’s.

This is not saying that Parkinson’s today is either a benign or a tame disease; in fact, it’s an insidious disorder.  Having Parkinson’s is like trying to get rid of cockroaches in your house.  You’ve done all you can to eliminate the roaches from your home, and you don’t see them for weeks; subsequently one day, they’re back. Likewise, Parkinson’s creeps around in the background of your daily life by stealthily altering physical/movement functions, by slowly uncoupling your crucial autonomic nervous system, and surreptitiously in ~50% of people with the disorder, they can develop psychotic tendencies.  The image of Parkinson’s today is clearly evolving due to improved treatment, better understanding of the disorder itself, and improved strategies for living with it; however, under any guise it is still a disagreeable disorder.

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” Wayne Dyer

A Change is Happening in Our Perspective of Parkinson’s Today:  It is my belief that the perception of Parkinson’s today has changed and is becoming much different than the historical views as described above. I truly believe that the effort most people are using to handle their disorder puts them in a healthier and better lifestyle to manage their symptoms. An emerging predominate picture of Parkinson’s today is a person striving to live strongly. They’ve embraced the appropriate lifestyle, and they are trying their hardest to not become as depicted by the images from the 1800’s. When you do a Google search for ‘images of Parkinson’s disease 2016’, you will likely find more positive and dynamic pictures of people similar to those portrayed by Mr. Leines.

“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.” Louis Pasteur

A Personal Perspective of Parkinson’s Today: With the “This is Parkinson’s” video from Anders M. Leines as an inspiration, I’ve included two sets of pictures of my life with Parkinson’s (photos are below). If my disorder fully progresses, and it is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, in advanced age (I’m currently 62 years old) I may possibly appear like the drawings above from Sir Gowers and Dr. Charcot. However, as a research scientist, I truly believe in the words of Dr. Claude Levi-Strauss who said “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he is one who asks the right questions.”  I am trying to improve my own knowledge about Parkinson’s; after all, there are still so many questions I want to ask, there are so many new scientific advances that I need to better understand, and there are some emerging treatment strategies that I’d be willing to consider in the future. In other words, Parkinson’s is a reluctant and unwelcome visitor in my body and I’m doing as much as I can to manage the disorder.

With substantial effort, I’m going to do all I can to resist progression; I’m going to stay hopeful, be positive, and remain persistent for many years to come. Importantly, I will take time to stretch every few hours and really make an effort to exercise every day. I will try harder to get an adequate amount of sleep every night.  I am also trying to be mindful and live within the moment by not fretting about what the future could bring.

Thus, this is what I consider to be true of myself (many other people with Parkinson’s would also fit this description): I’m a healthy person that just happens to have Parkinson’s. As I’ve said before, we both have much left to accomplish. We are both still here. Stay focused and stay hopeful.

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“We live in a time when the words impossible and unsolvable are no longer part of the scientific community’s vocabulary. Each day we move closer to trials that will not just minimize the symptoms of disease and injury but eliminate them.” Christopher Reeve

Cover photo credit: http://epod.usra.edu/.a/6a0105371bb32c970b015438c5312a970c-pi

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Catching Up, Life-Stories, and Future Posts in Journey With Parkinson’s

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Maya Angelou

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but an experience to be had.” Alan Watts

Don’t You Get The Summer Off?: My favorite check out guy at Whole Foods asked me recently, “Don’t you get the summer off from teaching medical students?” And one of my  weekend golf buddies routinely jokes about the fact that I’m in academics and says “I only have to work nine hours a week.”  In reality, being at a medical school has always meant to me to work essentially everyday. As long as my brain is functioning, I will continue to follow this lifestyle.  I have spent the summer getting ready for the fall semester, catching up on my research in the laboratory, and doing all the things I neglected to do during the school year.  Yes, in the summer I do take more opportunity to play golf during the week; however, I make up the hours working either early in the morning or late in the evening.   I realized today that I had not posted a blog in over a month; I have been busy and just not had time to sit at my computer to plan, research, think and write. The goal of this current blog is meant to be an update including future planned posts.

“What I have learned from life is to make the most of what you have got.” Stephen Hawking

Letters of Recommendation:  One of the obligations of a university professor that teaches undergraduate students is to be willing and able to write supportive letters of recommendation (well, that’s my opinion).  Many of the students I’ve taught in the past year are applying to medical school, dental school, graduate school, physician assistant school, pharmacy school, nursing school, and postbaccalaureate programs.   Several of my former students are also reapplying to some of the same programs. In a typical year, I will write 40 to 50 letters of recommendation.  And of course, the goal is to write a uniquely different letter for each student; to describe their key highlights, give evidence of their potential, and to find the most appropriate descriptive adjectives for each person.  Thus, each letter becomes its own journey from my perspective, and it takes time and considerable attention to compose such a supportive type of letter. And writing for me is always a struggle, because I have to be in the right mental  frame of mind to compose any document. My goal for the rest of  July through August is to try and write one or two letters of recommendations every couple of days.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” Marie Curie

Parkinson’s Empowerment Symposium: Options for Care and Living Well for Patients and Families (June 18, 2016, Asheville, North Carolina): The UNC Movement Disorders Center hosted a 1-day symposium on Parkinson’s. The focus was described as follows: “This educational program is intended for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and/or PD care partners, with the goals of reviewing treatment and therapy options, discussing effective coping, and providing a space to ask questions.” Seeking refuge from the summer heat, we combined a fun weekend in the cool Smoky mountains in the wonderfully eclectic city of Asheville with great cajun food for dinner, cool dry mountain air to play 18-holes of golf and just relaxing fun; we also attended the Parkinson’s symposium (see pictures below; the tattoo shop story will be reserved for a future blog post).  Being around a large group of people with Parkinson’s was inspiring and motivated me further to work managing/dealing with my Parkinson’s.  All-in-all, a great experience.

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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

Awakenings:  Awakenings is a 1973 book by Oliver Sacks; he found beneficial effects of the drug L-Dopa when given to catatonic patients with encephalitis lethargica. Awakenings is also a 1990 American movie on the same topic staring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. Use of L-Dopa ‘awakened’ the patients after years of being catatonic and now they are confronted with renewed life many years beyond their comprehension. The idea behind the treatment came from the success of using L-Dopa for treating Parkinson’s.

For the past few months, I’ve been feeling more stiffness, moving less-well and generally had a slight foreboding sense of dread.  My Neurologist, during my recent visit, decided that my treatment strategy had become less effective and we needed to ‘add-on’ something.  After several minutes of options and dosing of various compounds, I made the decision to move to Sinemet (the generic formula of Carbidopa-Levodopa 25-100 tablets); in addition to the dopamine agonists (Ropinirole extended release tablets and  Rotigotine transdermal patch).  My ‘awakening’ moment happened with the first small dose of the generic Sinemet. Absolutely felt better, less stiff, more flexible, and totally different.  I am excited to see what the future brings in continuing my new group of drugs; ready to keep exercising with renewed hope and ready to keep the rest of my life moving more efficiently.  So far the addition of the generic Sinemet has been simply positive and my own awakening.

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Bernice Johnson Reagon

Coming Attractions: There are 4 categories to posts for this blog: i) “Life Lessons” (describe living with Parkinson’s); ii) “Medical Education” (report emerging medical strategies for treating/managing/curing Parkinson’s); iii) “Strategy for Living” (support mechanism to anyone with Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative disorder); and iv) “Translating Science” (educate by presenting scientific aspects of Parkinson’s).  Listed below are the posts that are coming later this summer (my hope/plan is to get ~2 posts finished/week):

Medical Education
Immune System and Parkinson’s (Part 2): Role of Innate Immunity.

Anatomy of Parkinson’s.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Associated with Increased Risk of Parkinson’s but not of Alzheimer’s.
Update on the Anti-leukemia Drug Nilotinib and Treatment of Parkinson’s.

Strategy for Living
Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR!) Exercise Program and Neuroplasticity.
Part 5: Journey to Parkinson’s and Transradial Cardiac Catheterization.

Part 4: Journey to Parkinson’s and Electromyography.
Part 3: Journey to Parkinson’s and Polysomnography.
Part 2: Journey to Parkinson’s and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Life Lessons
New Face of Parkinson’s and the World Parkinson Congress.
A Simple Plan.
Where Were You When?
Love in the Presence of Parkinson’s.

Translating Science
c-Abl and α-Synuclein Interactions Linked to the Development of Parkinson’s.
Less Clueless About Parkinson’s.
Genetic Profiling of Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Dementia.
Arginase in Alzheimer’s: A New Hope.
Deletion of Huntingtin Gene in Adult Mice Suggests a New Treatment Strategy for Huntington’s.
NAD+  is Neuroprotective in a Drosophila Model of Parkinson’s.

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it.”  Mother Teresa

Cover photo credit: http://www.pixelstalk.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/HD-Summer-Desktop-Wallpaper.jpg

Déjà Vu and Neuroplasticity in Parkinson’s

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” Winston S. Churchill

“…remember that what has once been done may be done again.” Alexandre Dumas

Introducing the terms:
D
éjà vu: “A feeling of having already experienced the present situation.” (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/)

Neuroplasticity: “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.” (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362 )

Do you remember learning how to ride a bike, throw/catch a baseball, and/or hit a golf ball? Yes, yes, yes; when I was a child with my father.
Learning to ride a bicycle
–  training wheels, then two wheels with support from my dad going down the street, and then he let me go on my own; never to forget how to balance and pedal the bicycle.
Learning how to catch and throw a baseball– wrapping up the ball in the mitt to get it conditioned, the  correct throwing motion, watching the thrown ball into the mitt and working on my hand-to-eye coordination.
Learning the basics of the golf swing– the complexity and intricate timing of swinging a golf club with my dad showing me how to do it from grip, set-up, back swing to follow through.
We likely all have childhood memories of activities where our brain and body were trained/taught to do something.

“Neurons that fire together wire together. Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain. This is what scientists call experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” Rick Hanson

Déjà vu and physical activity with Parkinson’s: As someone who has loved to exercise almost every day for most of my life, Parkinson’s is a most disagreeable disorder. Why? Let me give you an example of playing golf. I think about playing golf almost every day although I play maybe once a week and try to practice a couple of times per week. It used to be, every time I addressed the golf ball, my body remembered what it’s supposed to do while waiting for the signals from the brain. Now today, approaching the golf ball I remind myself this is a golf shot. As Yogi Berra said “It’s like déjà vu, all over again” and I remember I’ve been here many times before. It’s as if a short circuit exists and I’m realigning this circuitry every time I swing the golf club. For the most part, my brain-body connection still works and I successfully hit the golf ball; but not every time (maybe I just need to practice more?). This might be analogous to a car running very low on transmission fluid (i.e., in my case low on dopamine); the gears are still working but just not working very smoothly.

“Never give up. It’s like breathing—once you quit, your flame dies letting total darkness extinguish every last gasp of hope. You can’t do that. You must continue taking in even the shallowest of breaths, continue putting forth even the smallest of efforts to sustain your dreams. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up.” Richelle E. Goodrich

Neuroplasticity and physical activity: Kleim and Jones (2008) and Petzinger et al. (2013) describe neuroplasticity as a process where the brain encodes experiences and is able to learn new behavior. They define neuroplasticity as the modification of existing neural networks by adding or modifying synapses in response to changes in behavior or environment, especially when done with exercise. Thus, neuroplasticity can help repair and strengthen the circuitry of the brain.  There is substantial evidence in human studies and in rodent-experimental models that have validated numerous exercise-associated effects on “brain health”.  A regular aerobic exercise program likely helps to promote the appropriate conditions for the injured brain to undergo neuroplasticity. 

“Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas.” Andrew Weil

Neuroplasticity and physical activity in Parkinson’s: [Please remember I am not a physician; I’m not making recommendations for you to do something.  Please talk with your neurologist and/or family practitioner before beginning any of these exercise programs.]  Balance, gait-improvement and flexibility are some of the obvious things a person with Parkinson’s needs to address on a frequent basis, in fact, on a daily basis. Clearly this needs to be self-motivated in the interest of possible neuro-rehabilitation. Most experts suggest that the exercise program should be repetitive, intense, and challenging.   Of course, you must enjoy the exercise program.   Ultimately, exercising should hopefully improve motor functions  and also assist  in improving cognitive function.

The exercises that have been most widely studied and proven to be the most beneficial in promoting neuroplasticity are  treadmill training, amplitude training, tai chi, tango dancing, boxing and cycling  (there are many other exercises to consider, don’t be limited by these above). In my opinion, it’s doing the aerobic exercise you enjoy on a daily and sustained basis,  it’s getting range of motion, and its challenging to you mentally.  As a scientist, I’m impressed by the data in rodent Parkinson’s models and the ability of exercise to promote neuroplasticity, to provide neuroprotection, and even offer neurorestoration. In human studies, the results are remarkably strong as well; showing that sustained aerobic exercise induces neuroplasticity in a damaged brain to improve overall brain health.

“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” Charles Jones

Neuroplasticity and physical activity on overall brain health in Parkinson’s. There is substantial scientific evidence that goal-directed aerobic exercise can improve and strengthen motor circuitry. This is due to structural modifications of synapses and overall improved brain health (increased blood flow, enhanced innate immune system and possibly neurogenesis). Overall brain health initiated by exercise-dependent neuroplasticity alters behavior (affecting many areas of the brain, e.g., the basal ganglia,  cortex, thalamus, and cerebellum). Ultimately, the net effect of sustained exercise and neuroplasticity results in improved motor skills, executive function, cognitive function and mood and motivation.  The diagram below illustrates the changes that can occur with exercise-induced neuroplasticity in Parkinson’s.

Neuroplasticity_4.16.03.13

“Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.” Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Three comments on déjà vu, neuroplasticity  and physical activity in Parkinson’s:
#1,  Maybe you’re thinking that I’m 62 y.o. and just less coordinated on the golf course with or without Parkinson’s. No doubt this is true but I have my déjà vu feeling, there’s clearly some brain-body disconnect with Parkinson’s (I do need to keep practicing to get more consistent).
#2,  Exercise-induced neuroplasticity will not reverse the effects of Parkinson’s. However, many different studies suggest some restoration of brain circuitry due to exercise-induced neuroplasticity. This implies with time and effort to exercise one could somewhat improve motor learning and behavior performance.
#3, We have much to learn about neuroplasticity and yes even déjà vu. The brain is a powerful organ capable of many different changes when impacted by damage. As we further delineate the mechanism of exercise-induced neuroplasticity, we will better understand Parkinson’s.  Hopefully, from this research (some references are below), there exists the prospect of improved treatment of Parkinson’s. Always remember, a regular aerobic exercise program is good for both your heart and your brain.  Stay positive, be focused, remain hopeful and enjoy your daily exercise.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Cover Photo Credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8210/8205735122_25302e7cce_b.jpg

References-

Alberts JL, Linder SM, Penko AL, Lowe MJ, Phillips M. It is not about the bike, it is about the pedaling: forced exercise and Parkinson’s disease. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2011;39(4):177–86. [PubMed]

Combs SA, Diehl MD, Staples WH, et al. Boxing Training for Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Case Series. Phys Ther. 2010;91(1):132–42. [PubMed]

Corcos DM, Comella CL, Goetz CG. Tai chi for patients with Parkinson’s disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(18):1737–8. [PubMed]

Farley BG, Koshland GF. Training BIG to move faster: the application of the speed-amplitude relation as a rehabilitation strategy for people with Parkinson’s disease. Exp Brain Res. 2005;167(3):462–7. [PubMed]

Fisher BE, Wu AD, Salem GJ, et al. The effect of exercise training in improving motor performance and corticomotor excitability in people with early Parkinson’s disease. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008;89(7):1221–9. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Fox CM, Ramig LO, Ciucci MR, Sapir S, McFarland DH, Farley BG. The science and practice of LSVT/LOUD: neural plasticity-principled approach to treating individuals with Parkinson disease and other neurological disorders. Semin Speech Lang. 2006;27(4):283–99. [PubMed]

Gajewski PD, Falkenstein M. Physical activity and neurocognitive functioning in aging – a condensed updated review. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity. 2016;13:1. doi:10.1186/s11556-016-0161-3.

Hackney ME, Earhart GM. Effects of dance on movement control in Parkinson’s disease: a comparison of Argentine tango and American ballroom. J Rehabil Med. 2009;41(6):475–81. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Heremans E, Nackaerts E, Vervoort G, Broeder S, Swinnen SP, Nieuwboer A. Impaired Retention of Motor Learning of Writing Skills in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease with Freezing of Gait. Allodi S, ed. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(2):e0148933. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148933.

Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2008;51(1):S225–39. [PubMed]

Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(6):511–9. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Petzinger GM, Fisher BE, McEwen S, Beeler JA, Walsh JP, Jakowec MW. Exercise-enhanced neuroplasticity targeting motor and cognitive circuitry in Parkinson’s disease. Lancet Neurol. 2013; 12(7):716–726. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70123-6 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Voss MW, Vivar C, Kramer AF, van Praag H. Bridging animal and human models of exercise-induced brain plasticity. Trends in cognitive sciences. 2013;17(10):525-544. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2013.08.001.

 

Neuroprotection by Modified-Macrophages in a Parkinson’s Model System

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Sagan

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller

Précis: Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are using an innovative approach to treat Parkinson’s in a model animal system (I realize this is my University, but it’s still very cool science). Dr. Elena Batrakova’s research is focused on engineering macrophages (a key host defense cell) for delivery to and therapy in the brain.  This “Trojan Horse” therapeutic system has been used for treating Parkinson’s in an animal model (go here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0106867).

What is a Trojan Horse therapeutic system?  From Greek mythology:The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy and win the war. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_Horse).  From  modern neuroscience and molecular engineering: The Trojan Horse therapeutic system is to use a naturally occurring cell (macrophage) that fools the body (to get into and past the blood brain barrier) into accepting the cell as self. After being accepted as self, it allows the material housed inside the macrophage to be released directly at the site of injury (mid-brain region called substantia nigra that has dopamine producing cells). The drawing below illustrates the science of this study and the depiction of the Trojan Horse.

Macrophages+Parkinsons.160208

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.” Robert A. Heinlein

What are macrophages (in this study they are the Trojan horse)? Bone marrow makes many different cell types including red blood cells, white blood cells (WBC), and platelets. Macrophages are derived from the WBC named monocyte. Monocytes released from the bone marrow circulate in the bloodstream for a couple of days and leave and go to the various organs and tissues where they mature and become macrophages.  Macrophages are incredibly versatile and important cells in our host defense system; including a role as a sentinel, a role as a  General in a bunker giving out orders to all the other soldiers, and even a role functioning as a garbage collector. Let me explain. Macrophages live in our tissues and they stand guard ready to attack invading microorganisms.  Macrophages generate many different substances (growth factors and  cytokines)  that recruit and activate WBC’s both to enhance the attack against invading microorganisms  and to initiate the immune system.  Macrophages also help out by cleanup debris and cellular waste products. Macrophages can be activated when  exposed to different kinds of inflammatory cytokines and they become what are called M1 and M2 macrophages.  M1 macrophages have a role being pro-inflammatory while M2 macrophages have a role being regenerative.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

What is GDNF (in this study it is the Greek soldiers)? GDNF  stands for glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor  (neurotrophic substances regulate the growth, survival, and differentiation of nerve cells/nervous tissue).  There is evidence in the scientific literature of the positive impact of neurotrophic factors in experimental treatment of Parkinson’s. The idea behind using GDNF is to promote survival of dopamine producing neurons and also to reduce inflammation in the mid-brain area. One of the major obstacles to this research area in general has been delivering the neurotrophic factor through the blood brain barrier and to the damaged tissue. The study here gets around this by using the macrophage as the carrier to deliver GDNF, the neurotrophic factor, directly to the brain.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie

Is this research similar to regenerative medicine?  Ultimately, if this science translates from bench-to-bedside, it satisfies elements of what is called regenerative medicine.  By definition, “regenerative medicine is a branch of translational research in tissue engineering and molecular biology which deals with the ‘process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function.'” (https://www.google.com/search?q=personalized+medicine&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=regenerative+medicine+definition).  The approach used in this study was first, to use the macrophage as the protective cell carrier and as the decoy in the Trojan horse model. And second, to express GDNF in the macrophage and have the macrophages deliver the neurotrophic factor directly to the brain. This idea is partially based on the hypothesis that macrophages would migrate toward areas of inflammation; there is substantial evidence linking inflammation in the mid-brain region to someone with Parkinson’s.

“Wonder is the seed of knowledge” Francis Bacon

 Was there good news using GDNF-expressing macrophages in the experimental mouse model of Parkinson’s?   There were several notable positive results from the study, including: 1)  macrophages were able to be transfected with GDNF; 2)  macrophages were activated to the M2 regenerative state; 3) injecting GDNF-expressing macrophages into the Parkinson’s disease mouse showed significant  improvement in both neuroinflammation and  neurodegeneration; 4) behavioral studies confirmed the neuroprotective effect in the mouse model; and 5) these results indicate successful   delivery of GDNF by macrophages, release of GDNF into the affected area, and transfer of the neurotrophic factor to the appropriate targeted neurons.

“The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.” Claude Lévi-Strauss

Of ‘Mice and Men’, what do the results mean for the future treatment of Parkinson’s?  The results of this paper are both elegant and straightforward.  Their overall goal is to use cell-mediated delivery of therapeutic substances that either stop or slow progression of Parkinson’s. Doing this successfully in a mouse model is one thing; however, getting it translated into a human study is another. We must remain positive that scientists of this caliber continue to get their research funded, continue to train scientists in the neurodegenerative field, and continue to publish their results.  We must remain persistent in managing our own disorder because there are several important studies going on right now; and some of them could reverse and/or slow down the progression of Parkinson’s.  Is this really possible? Time will tell whether this study translates from mice to men.  Finally, I am hopeful that in the near-future a strategy will emerge to slow/halt the progression of Parkinson’s; allowing our return to normalcy.

“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Albert Einstein —”Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.'” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64”

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6 Personal Strengths for Living Decisively with Parkinson’s

“How are they going to see me — as the colleague as I have always been, or as the patient I always will be? That was the beginning of my transition.” Alice Lazzarini (a Parkinson’s researcher who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s)

Précis: After successfully hitting a golf ball out of a sand trap and onto the putting green, I was recently asked to compare living with Parkinson’s to the obstacles presented by a sand trap on a golf course.

Strength is within each of us: We use various personal strengths to optimize our lives.  However, I believe certain personal strengths can provide a template to help you continue to live a valued life in the presence of Parkinson’s (with or without golf’s sand traps). Some of these personal strengths were beautifully summarized by Barbara Seelig, “The Heart of a Warrior: Persistence in the face of adversity; courage to face the unknown; purposeful intent to live wholeheartedly; courageous exploration of one’s weaknesses and strengths within the context of personal integration and consistent evolution toward personal growth.”  Let me describe some personal strengths of character that are important for living with Parkinson’s and also for hitting golf balls from sand traps.

“We aren’t victims, we are strong, amazing people who just happen to have a crummy disease, and we want a cure to that disease”  Kate Matheson

“It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course.” Hank Aaron

Personal strengths for Parkinson’s and golf’s sand traps:
Getting the diagnosis of Parkinson’s reminded me of the time I was a young boy playing organized football and had the wind knocked out of me. Hearing my Neurologist say the words “you have Parkinson’s Disease” left me gasping for a breath; I wanted to repeat the words to acknowledge my new life challenge but there was no air to form the words.

Since hearing those words, life and living have substantially changed; in reality, the majority of changes have been positive.  Some of these life-changes are centered around mindfulness and wholeheartedness; other changes revolve around Parkinson’s education/outreach.

Simply acknowledging the existence of the disorder mandates a new life inventory and re-organizing your personal priorities. Maintaining comparable quality life-experiences with the ever-present and progressive burden of Parkinson’s takes perseverance, courage, positivity, curiosity, resilience, and hope.

Golf is a wonderful sport for many reasons.  Playing and practicing golf is especially beneficial for someone with Parkinson’s (as described here previously).  Physical activity (most sports) is good for many aspects of this disorder.  Golf begins when you hit the ball off the tee aiming for the green; however simple that sounds there are usually obstacles ahead before reaching the green and putting the ball to finish. Thus, navigating these golf obstacles is similar to adapting to the daily annoyances of Parkinson’s.

There are usually 3 types of golf hazards: rough (the thick grass around/adjacent to the fairway); water (lakes, ponds, creeks) and sand traps. Sand traps exist for you to avoid them. Likewise, sand traps  are designed to capture your golf ball. Thus, occasionally, we find ourselves in a sand trap.   Getting out of the sand trap takes perseverance, positivity, resilience, and hope.

“We may each have our own individual Parkinson’s, but we all share one thing in common. Hope” Michael J. Fox

“If there is one thing I have learned during my years as a professional, it is that the only thing constant about golf is its inconstancy.” Jack Nicklaus

Living decisively with Parkinson’s and managing golf’s sand traps: Living with Parkinson’s is somewhat analogous to the challenges of hitting your golf ball out of the sand trap.  Sometimes you blast the ball out of the sand trap toward the golf green and the hole/flag.  At other times, you sacrifice a stroke to hit the ball laterally just to escape a daunting and deep sand trap.

Likewise, each minute of each hour living with Parkinson’s can present one a changing landscape; moving from physically feeling close to normal to challenges with even the most routine tasks/events (like buckling your car seat belt, getting a credit card out of your wallet, a smile being confused for a frown, a soft statement just not being heard in a noisy room,  etc.).  The goal of living decisively with Parkinson’s is to successfully accomplish all the day-to-day tasks that were once a seamless part of our lives.  Living daily with Parkinson’s is like walking into that sand trap, subtle resistance between feet and sand, with a slightly unsteady balance.

Living with Parkinson’s requires several personal strengths to bolster our daily dealing with its subtle but substantial life-changes:
•Perseverance- you need steadfastness in everything you do to counter the challenges of the disorder;
•Courage- your own strength provides the fulcrum where resistance resides to confront the effects of the disorder;
•Positivity- staying positive provides the fuel that starts each life-day with Parkinson’s;
Curiosity- learn all you can about Parkinson’s and you gain clarity on you, especially as your life moves forward;
•Resilience (with acceptance of your disorder)- you need the capacity to both adapt to and recover from difficulties;  and it starts by accepting your disorder. And please remember, Parkinson’s is neither a weakness nor a failure on your part;
•Hope- we must remain hopeful as it provides the foundation that you with your loved-ones, family, friends, colleagues and healthcare team are making a difference dealing with your Parkinson’s.

Our new journey began the moment we heard the words “you have Parkinson’s Disease”; however, your journey can still be fully lived with your sustained effort. Your core values and personal strengths of character are the framework for your new life’s journey. Live decisively with Parkinson’s:  “Stay strong. Stay hopeful. Stay educated. Stay determined. Stay persistent. Stay courageous. Stay positive. Stay wholehearted. Stay mindful. Stay happy. Stay you.”

“Sometimes the best journeys are those, that start when we do not plan, continue how we do not expect and are taking us places we do not know.” Aisha Mirza

“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”  Ben Hogan

Cover photo credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/B9xG7WmQ37g/maxresdefault.jpg

Golf And Parkinson’s: A Game For Life

“One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot – the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.” Peter Jacobsen

Précis: The goals are to describe the overall benefits of exercise to our health, the neuroprotective effects of exercise in treating Parkinson’s, and to highlight the game of golf for exercise (in the absence/presence of Parkinson’s).

Introduction:  If you’ve been following this blog, you already know how much I value exercise.  If this is your first visit, it’s really simple; any kind of exercise is a wonderful way to feel better, maintain your health, and to have a lot of fun. And if you’re lucky, exercising outside offers even more benefits.  With the backdrop of having Parkinson’s, exercise (physical activity) is essential for living-forward and for maintaining a grip on the miniscule progression of this disorder.

“Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject.”  David Forgan 

Benefits of Exercise: One of the healthiest things you can do is exercise (physical activity), and every day if possible! The Mayo Clinic gives 7 benefits of regular physical activity (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389 ): #1, exercise controls weight; #2, exercise combats health conditions and diseases; #3, exercise improves mood; #4, exercise boosts energy; #5, exercise promotes better sleep; #6, exercise puts the spark back into your sex life; and #7, exercise can be fun.

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” Arnold Palmer

Neuroprotective Benefits of Exercise: There is ample evidence to suggest that exercise (physical activity) should be given a role in treating Parkinson’s.  Many different types of exercise have been shown to help those of us with Parkinson’s. The key for you is to find the type(s) of exercise(s) you enjoy and are willing to do on a frequent basis.  Anyone with Parkinson’s should be encouraged to participate in routine exercise that allows one to establish and/or maintain physical fitness (please consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program).

See these websites for information on exercise and Parkinson’s:
http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/treatment/Exercise/Neuroprotective-Benefits-of-Exercise
http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/treatment/Exercise
http://www.pdf.org/en/exercise
https://www.michaeljfox.org/exercise
Examples of research showing the benefits of exercise in Parkinson’s:
Enhancing neuroplasticity in the basal ganglia: The role of exercise in Parkinson’s disease” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mds.22782/full )
“Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease” (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1107911 )
“The effectiveness of exercise interventions for people with Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5669549_The_effectiveness_of_exercise_interventions_for_people_with_Parkinson%27s_disease_A_systematic_review_and_meta-analysis )

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life.  You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”   Bobby Jones

A brief history of golf: An interesting historical timeline for the game of golf: http://www.igfgolf.org/about-golf/history/

A personal perspective of golf: At the age of 11-12 years old, I discovered my 2 favorite sports of tennis and golf.   Part of this was from my dad’s fondness of golf; it gave me some wonderful father/son time on the golf course.  Off-and-on for the past 50 years, I’ve played/loved the game of golf.  If you’ve read the quotes here, you realize that golf is both an honorable game and incredibly hard to master (I’m still learning how to play).  Golf is sometimes incredibly frustrating; yet it still very relaxing and always fun. You use every muscle/joint/ligament/tendon in your body to hit the golf ball. You can substantially boost the level of exercise if you are physically able to push a golf cart or carry your golf bag and walk. You frequently play golf with others; however, you mostly are competing against your most recent good/bad-scoring round of golf.  Finally, there is usually a fun and supportive social aspect to golf.

Below are pictures of several of my ‘golf buddies’ (friends, colleagues, and relatives).

Image“In golf, the player, coach and official are rolled into one, and they overlap completely. Golf really is the best microcosm of life – or at least the way life should be.”  Lou Holtz

Golf and Parkinson’s: Many people think of golf as a passive sport that doesn’t offer much in terms of physical fitness.  Golf actually provides cardiovascular exercise, strength training, flexibility, balance and coordination.  As a form of exercise, here are some benefits of playing golf for managing Parkinson’s: (a)  tremendous benefit for balance; (b) positive effect for range of motion; (c) increase in lateral flexibility; (d) walking 18 holes of golf is ~5-7 miles; (e) provides strength training; (f) great way to exercise your brain (concentration); and (g) golf is relaxing and fun.

The video below (entitled “Putting with Parkinson’s”) says it all because these golfers believe in the positive effect of golf on their Parkinson’s and they really enjoy playing golf.

“Golf is a puzzle without an answer. I’ve played the game for 40 years and I still haven’t the slightest idea how to play.” Gary Player

Golf and Parkinson’s- A game for life: Parkinson’s is insidious and primarily presents as a movement disorder; it advances with indifferent ‘baby-steps’ that slowly evolves over many years. Until a cure for Parkinson’s is reported, exercise is an essential life-advancing-salve to help shield you from your disorder.  There are so many positive benefits to exercise; for someone with Parkinson’s, exercise is even more life-preserving and health-affirming. Find an exercise that works for you, and embrace its health benefits. Use exercise to provide a neuroprotective net over your Parkinson’s. Stay active. Remain dedicated. Be strong. Strive for health and happiness. Keep going. Don’t ever lose hope.

My doctor, who happens to be my old college roommate, tells me the Parkinson’s shouldn’t affect my golf game at all, which really surprised me. His explanation was very interesting. He said I’ve never been able to putt and since it was impossible for my putting to get any worse, there was actually a chance it might improve.” Vince Flynn

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